You’d think that it would be easier to change jobs within an institution than to change institutions. I thought it was going to be. And it probably is—but that’s not how it feels right now. Things are more complicated than I had envisioned.
I’ve moved across country several times. Back in 1979, Debbie and I loaded all our worldly goods into a twelve-foot U-Haul trailer, hitched it behind our 1976 Chevy Nova (with a 250 straight six), and headed from Iowa to Colorado. We left at noon with temperatures in the upper 90s. Pulling that kind of a load, it was a challenge to keep the little Nova from overheating. Fortunately, the weather turned while we slept overnight in Omaha, and we drove through a cold rain all the way into Denver. While we unloaded the trailer, we actually watched snowflakes falling (in June!).
Six years later we found ourselves and our toddler headed in the other direction. This time I drove a Ryder truck filled with furniture. I towed one car behind the truck while Debbie’s brother drove the other. When we reached Newton, Iowa, we found an entire crew from Immanuel Baptist Church ready to help us unload. I’ll never forget the feeling when one of the deacons greeted me with “Welcome to Newton, Pastor.” God allowed me to minister to that congregation for the next six years.
The next move came at the end of 1990. Feeling the need to continue my education, we left for Dallas. During the intervening years, however, we had added another child and accumulated enough stuff to fill a four-bedroom house. We sold or gave away whatever we thought we didn’t need (need being a relative term, of course), but we still had enough to fill the largest van that U-Haul would rent us. Again we towed one car while Debbie drove the other. We managed to stay in touch using CB radios.
When we arrived in Dallas, there was no one to meet us. Without help, I had to unload everything myself—even the piano. It’s amazing what you can do if you rent a good dolly.
We spent longer in Dallas than I had anticipated. When we moved there, I planned to work a job and finish school as quickly as possible. Instead, the Lord led us to plant and pastor a church in the expanding community of Sachse. School took second place to ministry.
Faith Baptist Church was about to put up a building when I was invited to join the faculty at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis. I declined the invitation because I believed that my first obligation was to see the church through the building program. To my surprise, Central Seminary later renewed its offer, leading to perhaps the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. I was on the verge of turning down Central Seminary a second time when two circumstances tipped the balance in the other direction (perhaps someday I’ll disclose what they were).
As the new building neared completion, we prepared for our move. It turned out to be the easiest that I have ever made. One of the board members at Central Seminary owned a trucking company. He pulled up to my door with a semi and a crew. When we reached Minneapolis (on January 2), the seminary faculty unloaded us and moved us in. All that Debbie and I had to do was to load our children into the car in Dallas and then drive north.
Those are the big moves. We’ve also made smaller ones. In every state we’ve lived in, we’ve been required to change residences at least once. In Colorado we lived in four places. In Texas we lived in three. The only exception was the six years that I pastored in Newton, Iowa, where we lived in the church’s parsonage the whole time. But that was the second time we had resided in Iowa.
Along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about preparing for a move. You don’t try to move everything. You sell or give away all the non-essentials. You never move food. You start packing early—months early. You box up everything that you can, and you use boxes of uniform size (we would raid the grocery stores for months collecting citrus boxes—just right for books and small items—and apple boxes—exactly the size for files and clothing). You clearly label all boxes and mark all fragile items. You pre-stack your boxes with the heaviest on the bottom and the fragile stuff on top, and you make sure you have a hand truck ready. You disassemble all furniture (like beds) and empty all drawers ahead of time. You prepare a box or two of urgent items to “load last, unload first.”
People say that three moves will do as much damage as a house fire, but that is not necessarily true. Debbie and I have lived in a dozen homes over the past thirty-five years, and we’re still using some of our wedding gifts. The secret is to prepare well.
After all that, you’d think it would be no big deal just to move down the hall, right? Well, think again. It’s more complicated than you might suppose.
For the past eight years I’ve occupied two offices. One was a study, a place where I could spread books on the desk and get work done. The other was a “show” office for greeting people and holding meetings. Over the years, I’ve accumulated enough books and decorative bric-a-brac to fill both offices.
Now I’m moving into a professor’s office the size of my previous study, but I still have all the stuff from both offices. Fortunately, Central Seminary is very generous with office space for professors. Each of us has a 14x14 room with beautiful oak shelving permanently fixed to two walls. Generous indeed—but not nearly enough to house the materials that I’ve accumulated over the past thirty years.
The move itself is laborious, even if it is just down the hall. File cabinets and desks never move willingly. My desk is particularly recalcitrant because it has a permanently fixed wing along the side. And then the books! I’ve hauled load after load.
The move is complicated by the fact that I’ve had to do a redesign of my office space. In the process, I’ve disassembled shelving from other parts of the building, moved it into my office, and reassembled it to gain 128 linear feet. On top of that, I’ve been building shelving of my own.
Let me say a word about that. When I was in about ninth grade, my mother became the manager of the bookstore at Faith Baptist Bible College. She needed shelving for the store, and I spent a day or two with my father as he built it. The method that I learned from him has served me well, and it is much easier now that we have cordless drills and self-tapping construction screws. The shelving is made from cheap pine, but when it is finished it is decent-looking, sturdy, and serviceable.
So I’ve spent the past week or so building shelving. That task has been further complicated by temperatures approaching the century mark, with humidity to match. I don’t remember sweating this much since I worked as a hot-asphalt roofer in college. The labor is good, however, and it refreshes in a way that mere amusements never could.
The room is now structured almost as I want it, though I’ll probably have to build one or two more units of shelving. It still won’t hold my entire library, so I’m making adjustments. Thanks to Logos and Google Books, more and more of my books are electronic. I think I can safely dispose of many print duplicates. The fact is, however, that I bond with my books. For me, getting rid of a bound volume is harder than deleting an electronic file.
In the meanwhile, my library and files are in chaos. Moving has been a full-time job since the beginning of July. My goal is to have the move complete by the end of the month. I have reading, writing, and talking to do. That’s my job.
Resurrection from La Corona
John Donne (1572-1631)
Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall—though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly—be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul,
And life by this death abled shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death bring misery,
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll.
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which it was;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin’s sleep and death soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last and everlasting day.